AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Amarillo Area Foundation recently awarded discretionary grants to the cities of Claude and Friona.

The grants were used to open the only daycare facilities for both Claude and Friona. Amarillo Area Foundation Senior Vice President Keralee Clay said one of their strategic planning areas is childcare and early childhood learning.

“90% of the human brain is developed before the age of five so those first five years are crucial for our kids,” said Clay. “Also for our workforce, not having a place to put our kids that’s economical and of quality is keeping people from able to get back to work, which is harming our local economy and our state economy.”

Claude and Friona are considered childcare deserts, which means there is no childcare in the cities at all. Both cities submitted proposals to AAF and were awarded the grants.

Clay shared that opening childcare facilities is one way to address the childcare crisis and that it will take community engagement to make progress.

“The end goal looks like anyone who wants to get back into the workforce has a safe place to put their kids that they can afford,” said Clay. “That children have a safe place to go from zero to five, they have a safe place to go after school when their parents are still at work.”

AAF awards three discretionary grants a year and accepts applications for three strategic areas, including education, healthcare and economic opportunity.

Claude has already opened their daycare and the city of Friona was awarded a contract for construction services last month.

Friona City Manager Lee Davila shared they have minor renovations to make and anticipate construction will be completed in late September.

Davila shared that for the past two years, the city council has made daycare services and the workforce their top priorities. Through conversations surrounding the workforce, they realized a suitable childcare option was needed.

“We know that there’s a need to increase the workforce in Friona and we figured this would be the perfect conduit and catalyst to get this program going,” said Davila. ‘We could create an extended workforce for the city but we could also create a safe environment for people to leave their children.”

Davila continued, “We started having discussions with local business owners and residents and trying to figure out what buildings would serve as a perfect conduit for daycare services, in doing so we had a conversation with a local girl scout troop who was looking to offer their building up as a potential daycare site.”

The Girl Scouts donated their building, and the city decided the facility would honor Louisa Wilson, a Girl Scout leader in the community.

“Miss Louisa Wilson would be so proud of the Girl Scouts, the community and just the fact that we did not let this building die,” said Sharon Rector, Girl Scout Leader. “That we are going to continue to minister to and take care of children and her legacy will live forever.”

Friona residents who are interested in using the childcare facility, parents and guardians must contact Happy Tribe Academy. The daycare service provider will provide an application and information on how to enroll students.

For those interested in working at the daycare, they are asked to contact the local city commerce or the City of Friona.

At this time officials have not determined what the cost of child care services would be.

“We’re looking at programs, said Davila. “Governor Abbott had proposed a bill that would provide some daycare service relief for parents at a lower cost. We’re working with Texas Workforce Commission to make sure that parents have another resource to receive additional funding for daycare service costs, so it doesn’t impact the parents too much.”

Davila shared that the daycare is a win for the entire community, which will help economic development as people enter the workforce and provide affordable and quality childcare services.

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